Last November I had the opportunity to visit Huntington, West Virginia, for a Curbside Chat. The day before I arrived in town I did a rather crazy interview for a radio show hosted by two of the city's local mayors (which we released last week as part of a podcast). The impression of Huntington they left me with was not flattering.

When I arrived, I was delighted to find that Huntington is a beautiful city, albeit with a little bit of rust and wear. It has a fantastic downtown with some landmark buildings, nice destinations and endless potential. That core is surrounded by some really solid neighborhoods, structures that continue to express their elegance even when not fully loved. I was enchanted.

The only thing truly depressing about Huntington is the miles and miles of decaying post-World War II development that surrounds this strong core, the same kind of mindless stip malls, drive throughs and cheap housing that you find almost everywhere else in North America. The desperation of these areas was made even more vivid when contrasted with the downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods, places that still shine despite decades of neglect and decline.

I don't know as I've seen a more powerful example of the innate strength of the traditional development pattern. I can't imagine how amazing Huntington would be today if the energy they had expended over the last sixty years chasing growth and prosperity on the periphery had been diverted into their traditional neighborhoods.

It's not too late.